Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for January 2007

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I’m a tad late to this controversy. It seems John Edwards’s taste in new homes has got a lot of folks talking.

“It’s one thing to be a millionaire, but it’s totally tone-deaf to be using Katrina victims while you’re putting the finishing touches on your multimillion-dollar mansion,” said one Democratic operative.

Tone deaf. That’s a good way to put it. Thing is, there’s no question that John Edwards — a highly successful professional — has a right to enjoy the fruits of his labor in the form of a beautiful home. Moreover, his choice of abode shouldn’t have any bearing on his “standing” to speak for this or that group, or to take any position he damn well pleases.

On the other hand, it’s hard to believe that it didn’t occur to Mr. Edwards, or at least to some of his campaign people, that building the baddest ass house in the whole freakin county was bound to set him up for some criticism (however simplistic and unwarranted such criticism may be). Why give your political rivals such an easy target? He went ahead and decided to build it anyway. And that makes me suspect Edwards doesn’t want the White House badly enough. I mean, how much of a sacrifice could refraining from building a Taj Mahal (as Iowa rapidly approaches) possibly be? It’s not like he’d have to live in a log cabin or something.

I think his foregoing this relatively modest sacrifice is a bad sign for Edwards fans.

Written by Jasper

January 31, 2007 at 10:48 am

Posted in Election 08, Politics

Take courage, oh ye faithless New Englanders

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Yes, the Pats won’t play another game until August, but on the brighter side, average temperatures are now starting to increase again, after six months of decline.

Written by Jasper

January 26, 2007 at 10:45 am

Posted in Boston, Miscellania, Sports

Bush’s health insurance proposal

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One of the objections being raised against the president’s plan is that the tax standard tax break proposed ($7,500 — individual; $15,000 — family) wouldn’t really do much to help folks out with the purchase of health insurance, because health insurance is so expensive, and because (at least based on the average person’s experience choosing providers from among those offered by his employer) there’s so little choice. But this is precisely what’s so wrong about our current system, and what the Bush plan, albeit in a most tepid and inadequate manner, tries to address.

When you go to buy life insurance there are typically dozens of possible plans you can buy, with a significant array of features and price ranges. But most of us only have one or two (or at most three or four) choices when it comes to health insurance. If none of those offered by our employer fits the bill, well, then hard cheese. This system simply doesn’t make sense, policy-wise. We’d be far better off if a) everybody were insured and b) everybody had on their consumer’s hat when it came time to deciding which plan makes sense.

Thing is, even a switch to single payer (which I would argue would be a net improvement over our current system) would not get rid of the need for cost controls. All single payer countries, just like the non-single payer USA, face bigtime challenges when it comes to controlling costs. Because the USA doesn’t have a top-down system, the only way to get some cost control into the picture is to shift to a system where we’re not all playing with other people’s money when it comes to our healthcare decisions. Now, the line I always hear in such discussions is:

But I don’t want to worry about making decisions when I need healthcare, or when someone in my family does!”

I couldn’t agree more — nobody wants people to be stressed out when they’re ill.

But that doesn’t mean people ought not to be asked to make decisions before they’re ill, i.e., when they’re deciding which plan to purchase. People should be asked to think about such questions as: How much of a deductible am I comfortable with? Do I really need a private room if I go to the hospital? How burdensome would it be to pay out of pocket for my own prescriptions, or for routine checkups? Do I need my policy to cover dental care? etc.

If we could combine this sort of approach with a few needed reforms* we’d have the best of both worlds: Euro-style universality and security with American-style access, speed and choice.

*1. a “nationalized” market for health insurance with nationwide standards. 2. mandatory community rating. 3. government reinsurance for catastrophic costs or those with pre-existing conditions. 4. mandatory universal coverage with subsidies to the less affluent. 5. portability requirements for all policies to gradually sever the link between employment and insurance.

Written by Jasper

January 24, 2007 at 10:22 am

Posted in Economics, Policy